Sunday, April 20, 2008

Just one of those days

I’ve been rather under the weather lately struggling with the legacy of a nasty chesty cough back in January (see Little voice ). I’m not after sympathy, so you can put your handkerchiefs away now! What I wanted to blog about was how we struggle with our work when we’re not feeling 100%.

I had a short break (much too short actually!) over Easter (I say ‘break’, but what I really mean is there weren’t any concerts, workshops or choir sessions, just website updating, song preparation, planning for next term, publicity – you know the sort of thing). When I came back to ‘work’ (i.e. regular sessions with regular folk) I was feeling pretty rough and found it a real struggle. My energy was low both physically and mentally and although I managed to do my job (what a professional – hooray!!), I didn’t really enjoy it. What I really wanted was another month off, preferably in the Bahamas with a personal masseur. I was uplifted by the singing as always, but it was very, very hard work to actually plan and run the sessions.

We all have our off days when we’re feeling below par and it often colours our view of the world. Even though it might be a beautiful sunny day, somehow it doesn’t impinge on our soul. Our usual pleasures don’t quite get through to us. What is worse is that we often perceive events very negatively. What might normally be an ‘OK’ choir session feels like a huge disaster or a complete waste of time. We criticise ourselves for not teaching very well. We go home feeling that we’ve not done our job properly and that people have been disappointed. If we’re doing a performance, we don’t much enjoy it and perhaps feel that it was pretty awful compared with our normal concerts.

But ask the choir members or the audience and they may not have noticed anything untoward or out of the ordinary! Our personal experience has been entirely coloured by our thoughts, and our thoughts have tended towards the negative because we are not feeling very well. This can happen at other times even when we’re fit and healthy. We may have had an argument with our partner; it may be one of those days when everything seems to go wrong and the traffic lights are always against us; we may have had a grant proposal turned down. Whatever it is, it’s put us in a negative or highly critical frame of mind and that often ends up colouring our other experiences.

At times like this, we just have to get on with the job and understand that this is not a permanent state of affairs. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Just because it feels like one choir session/ concert has been lousy, doesn’t mean that the next one will be. Just because today we feel like a bad teacher doesn’t mean that we are a bad teacher. Each session, each workshop, each concert is a new and different thing and we mustn’t bring the past with it. (see Zen beginner's mind in Blame it on the weather)

Our experience is subjective. Just because we’re having a bad day doesn’t mean that we’re not doing a good job. And it’s not good asking those on the receiving end (choir members, workshop participants, audience) because their experience too is subjective. Each individual will have their own experience coloured by their own thoughts. All we can do is trust that we have prepared properly and are up to the job – we have done well in the past and there’s no reason to suppose that today will be any different. Just because we feel that it’s not been a good experience for us is no reason to be down with ourselves. And for most of us who do this kind of job when we have our inevitable bad days, just remember: we’re doing what we love and being paid for it. How many people are lucky enough to be able to say that?

go to Chris Rowbury's website

Chris Rowbury


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